Governor Rauner signed into law dramatic reforms in school discipline. The intent of the law is to use suspensions and expulsions as a last resort.
Illinois has one of the widest disparities between black and white students in the country, according to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In the 2012-2013 school year, Chicago Public Schools issued 32 out of school suspensions for every 100 black students, compared to just 5 for every 100 white students. (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education).
Hopefully, the law will have the effect of excluding fewer students from schools.
Summary of the New Act:
- Schools must adopt student discipline policies consistent with the Act and review them annually.
- School districts must limit the number and duration of suspensions to the greatest extent possible. (Suspensions and expulsions are a last resort, rather than the first response.)
- The bill provides struggling students with academic and behavioral supports, and promotes fairness by holding public schools and charter schools to the same standards.
- Schools must not advise or encourage students to drop out of school due to behavioral or academic challenges.
- Schools must create a policy for suspended students, including those students who have been suspended from the bus and do not have alternate transportation, to make up any missed work for equivalent academic credit.
- Schools are encouraged to create memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies to define the role of law enforcement within the school.
Suspension Time Lines:
Suspension of 1-3 Days
- In the written decision, the school must explain (1) the specific act of gross disobedience or misconduct; and (2) the rationale for the specific duration of the suspension.
- Suspension of three days or less may be used only if the student’s attendance presents a threat to safety or a disruption to other student’s learning opportunities.
- Students must be provided an opportunity to make up any missed work for equivalent academic credit.
Suspension of 4 days
- The same as above, however, schools must also document whether other behavioral and disciplinary measure have been exhausted AND
- The student’s presence in the school poses a threat to the safety of other students, staff or school community, OR
- Substantially disrupts the operation of the school
Suspension of 5-19 days
- The same as above with the additional condition.
- Document whether the appropriate and available support services are to be provided or whether it was determined that there are no appropriate and available services for the student.
- Students who are suspended must be provided an opportunity to make up any missed work for equivalent academic credit.
- Detail the specific reasons why removing the student from school is in the school district’s best interest.
- Provide a rationale for the duration of the time for the expulsion.
- Document whether other interventions were attempted.
- Schools may expel a student only if other appropriate and available behavioral interventions have been exhausted and if the student’s attendance at the school poses a threat to the safety of other students, staff of school community, or the student substantially disrupts the operation of the school.
- A school may refer expelled students to appropriate and available support services during the time the student is expelled.